Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chonicle (2012)

When the trailer for Chronicle came out, I remember immediately despising it. It showed us a bunch of arsehole teenagers getting superpowers and becoming bigger arseholes. It had terrible music, cheesy moments (that cross-legged car-crushing shot that’s in the trailer is still the worst part of the movie) and used the found-footage technique, which I really wasn’t a fan of at the time. It was because of this trailer that I never bothered seeing it in the cinema. Despite the great reviews it got and the numerous recommendations from friends, I just didn’t give a shit. So, after finally watching it upon its DVD release, did it live up to the hype or did the trailer, for once, not lie? Let’s just say I’ve watched it three times since buying it.

Andrew, Matt and Steve are three late high schoolers who find some kind of thing (that’s literally all we know about it) and it gives them superpowers. They spend about as much time establishing the plot as it took me to write that sentence, and it’s glorious. The three guys obviously become strong friends through their bonding experience, and grow together as they learn to use their powers as well as be responsible with them. It’s a very simple movie, but its execution is so close to perfect that it’s almost frightening.

One of the more unexpected parts of Chronicle is the fact that there are no traditional action scenes until fairly late into the movie. Before then, actions scenes are replaced by the main characters experimenting and doing all the things that teenagers would do with powers: flicking girl’s skirts, playing pranks on people, playing handball without hands, and so on. What’s amazing about these sequences is how truly exciting they are to watch. The characters are having a great deal of fun, and it rubs off on the audience in a big way. We have seen much more spectacular things in film thousands of times, but it’s all done so well that you feel a sense of awe that I don’t think I’ve ever felt in any other movie. It feels real and believable, which is something I can’t really say for any other superhero movie (not even the ones that are trying to be real, like Super or Defendor).

In fact, the film makers did a stunning job with manipulating the audience’s emotions in general. There are genuinely funny moments in here, but they are realistically funny. It’s the kind of humour you get when you’re hanging out with your friends, not when you’re watching a comedy. Ordinarily, that shouldn’t really work in a movie, but it does. On the other side of the spectrum, Chronicle gets incredibly dark at times. And during these moments, it makes you sympathise with its characters to far greater effect than any other superhero movie I’ve ever seen. It really is a testament to how well-developed these characters are. Without the attachment you have for them, none of these scenes would have worked at all.

The found-footage technique is used to pretty good effect here, too. Most of the time, you forget it’s part of the movie (which is a good thing in this case) but it is occasionally used in surprisingly dramatic and original ways. Thanks to the fact that the main characters can telekinetically wield cameras, the cinematography isn’t hindered by the found-footage nature of the film, but you still get the positive aspects of found-footage, especially in the third act.

All of the actors here are young up-and-comers, and they did a fantastic job. I’m pretty sure this was the first time I’d seen any of them, and they left a great impression. Hopefully they’ll get picked up for the next X-Men film or something.

The frequent comparisons to Akira are fairly justified. Akira’s narrative is a hundred times more complicated than Chronicle’s, but there are certainly a fair few direct parallels. Even the costume design is noticeably influenced by Akira.

As a superhero film, Chronicle is quite strange. In many ways, it deviates very heavily from the norm, while in others, it follows the tropes extremely loyally. Whenever it broke the rules, it felt original and intelligent. Whenever it didn’t, it felt appropriate and never cheap. They never actually mention the word “superhero” once in the whole script, which was refreshing.
Chronicle absolutely blew me out of the water. Alternative superhero films are rapidly becoming more interesting to me than DC’s and Marvel’s, and movies like this are why. This is truly one of the most gripping films I’ve seen in a long time. It affected me to a far greater degree than I ever expected an action movie like this to do. It successfully deals with untraditional pacing methods, and has one of the most magnificent third acts I can think of. It may not be the most complicated movie, but everything that is here is done to near perfection. After some consideration, I’ve come to the unexpected realisation that Chronicle is my second favourite superhero movie of all time.

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